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Fit again Woods looking to dominate 2004

Tiger Woods starts the 2004 PGA Tour season healthy and hungry for his first major victory in 18 months.

"Last year at this time, I wasn't sure when I would be able to compete again," Woods said. "This year my knee is sound and I am ready to go."

The 28-year-old American begins the new campaign at the $5.3 million Mercedes Championships in Hawaii this week after missing the 2003 event because of knee surgery.

He will go head-to-head at the Kapalua Resort with South African and defending champ Ernie Els, who cruised to an eight-stroke win in 2003.

"Ernie (Els) played great golf, but I really wanted to be there. It was tough watching it on TV," said Woods on his web site.

Woods, the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, has spent the last couple weeks getting in shape for what he hopes is another monster season.

Woods could also be hearing wedding bells in 2004 as he popped the question to Swedish model Elin Nordegren while they were vacationing in South Africa in November.

He took time off in December after competing in the Target World Challenge where he finished second to Davis Love.

The 30-player field Mercedes features the PGA Tour winners from last year and will give us a glimpse of what to expect from Woods this year.

Woods is a two-time winner of this event having won in 2000 and 1997.

He captured Kapalua in 2000 by beating Els in a sudden-death playoff after both had eagled the final hole. Woods putted for birdie on the second extra hole to clinch the victory.

"It doesn't get much better than that. That was a lot of fun," Woods said.

Woods has committed to playing in at least three of the eight-week West Coast Swing tournaments. Besides Kapalua, Woods will compete in the Buick Invitational and the WGC Match Play Championships. Both are in the San Diego area.

Woods plans to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates in March for the Desert Classic after pulling out of the event last year because of security concerns.

He also plans to compete in the Masters in April, U.S. Open in June, British Open in July, PGA Championship in August before getting ready for September's Ryder Cup.

Woods will also play in Miyazaki, Japan at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in November.

Upon his return, following his December 2002 left knee surgery, Woods won three of the first four events he played. But he also went majorless in 2003 with his last major victory coming at the U.S. Open in 2002.

Woods won five PGA events last year and was named Player of the Year for the fifth straight year.

"I felt like I played pretty consistently all year. I really didnt know how my knee would hold up. All things considered, I'm very pleased," said Woods.

He also broke Byron Nelson's record for consecutive cuts with 114 and has his sights set on Jack Nicklaus' all-time record for major wins of 18. Woods has eight.

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